Pushing through the slatted door of MACHETE in Greensboro, North Carolina, I’m immediately greeted by a smoky red jello shot topped with boozy purple foam. The foam is piled on by general manager Kevan Ash and handed to me from behind a makeshift Costco stand, Kirkland branded, of course. This is how I’m ushered into MACHETE’s Halloween Chef’s Table.
This isn’t my first time at MACHETE, but the air is tinged with subtle hints of the holiday, including a small “bloodied” knife peeking out of the jello shot. This was the sole Halloween “trick” of the evening, jumpstarting the night to a spooky beginning. The atmosphere at MACHETE is layered with personality: brightly-hued murals splashed across the walls, multicolored globe lights, and retractable garage door windows. Yet, amidst these elements, there is a traceable elegance and modernity. One of the things I admire most about MACHETE is their ability to seamlessly make your experience unassuming yet elevated. For many, this takes the pretentiousness out of fine dining and renders it approachable and inviting.
MACHETE began in 2018 as a home-based pop-up, quickly garnering a loyal base across North Carolina. They evolved to a brick-and-mortar space in 2020, with chef Kevin Cottrell at the helm, earning many accolades including a James Beard semifinalist nomination for “Best New Restaurant”. In many ways, experiencing the intimacy of their chef’s table felt like reconvening with their roots.
Headed by MJ Wheeler, MACHETE’s beverage program has a cultlike following for their inventive libations and clever nomenclature. With each seasonal release, the menu is centered on a particular, if not peculiar, theme. Favorites include “Why Are There So Many Mattress Firms,” “Area 51,” and “Florida Man.” This season’s theme revolved around The Simpsons, and my cocktail of choice was “I’ll Take a Crab Juice,” with squid-ink soaked gin, fino sherry, balsamic vinegar, and lemon oil. An appropriate toast to the season, the goth cocktail is a deep, murky black, with an unexpectedly pleasant brightness from the lemon layered over the squid ink and balsamic.
MACHETE Halloween Chef’s Table Menu
A series of snackable starters that included:
- Blue corn tortilla with steak tartare and a garlic chipotle crema with lime foam
- Yuzu crab egg roll wrapped with a fried wonton shell and topped with trout roe
- Crisp rye toast spread with butter and brothy, earthy brown beech mushrooms
- Bright shoyu ahi tuna wrapped in cucumber and topped with edamame
This course was paired with an NV Red Tail Ridge Lagrein Blend from Finger Lakes, New York, a buzzy red with plum and raspberry notes that managed to compliment both the earthiness of the mushrooms and the crispness of the tuna.
A rich, creamy roasted red pepper soup with braised octopus and spicy chorizo drizzled with squid ink, so as my spoon moved across the bowl, the plate became hauntingly darker.
The soup was paired with a 2021 Stirm Cabernet Pfeffer grown in California’s Lime Kiln Valley, seamlessly blending its subtle pepper and tobacco flavors.
Paying homage to the Stephen King classic, this dish centered on a large portion of pork belly topped with charred radicchio and splattered with a cherry sweet and sour sauce.
Paired with a 2020 Domaine Sébastien Magnien Pinot Noir from Burgundy, France, the pork belly sang alongside the velvety and fruit-forward notes of the noir.
Vampire Nightmare: Stake & Garlic
A perfectly prepared strip loin outlined by a white truffle potato purée and topped with housemade “Funyuns” for an undeniably addictive crunch.
My favorite pairing of the night was this 2017 LAN Reserva Tempranillo Rioja from Spain, with essences of smoke, vanilla, and oak that harmonized with the umami flavors of this dish.
Drop Dead Gourd-geous
Dessert was a haunting presentation of a milk chocolate mousse pumpkin smothered in an enchanting onyx glaze and served with spiced brown butter cake crumbs and smears of raspberry sauce.
Adding citrusy, floral notes against the rich, creamy mousse, a glass of orange —2019 Izydora Amber Muscat Cimişlia from Moldova concluded the evening..
It seems cliché to call the evening haunting, but the intimate and attentive service, bold creativity, and playful presentation of MACHETE’s Halloween Chef’s Table will be radiating through my mind for some time.
MACHETE is open Tuesday through Saturday, with reservations encouraged. However, I highly recommend attending their special events, chef’s tables, and supper clubs. Sign up for their newsletter for upcoming events.